Fitzgerald’s characters contend with complex relationships, societal expectations, wealth and poverty, and internal battles of morality. Below are a few of the most moving and interesting quotes readers can find in Fitzgerald’s novels, short stories, and personal notebooks.
He had one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced, or seemed to face, the whole external world for an instant and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself.
These lines are found towards the beginning of The Great Gatsby. They’re used when Nick describes Gatsby’s appearance and what it says about his personality. He notes the way Gatsby’s smile comes off as theatrical while at the same time evoking a charismatic feeling. The man is still a mystery to Nick, as these lines suggest. Gatsby, the final lines state, has the ability to make anyone feel as though they’re the most important person in the world, just for a moment. This is part of the reason why people are so drawn to Gatsby and a feature of his personality that he’s cultivated from his youth.
Love and Relationships
[H]e stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and, far as I was from him, I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward — and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock. When I looked once more for Gatsby he had vanished.
In these lines, which also feature towards the beginning of The Great Gatsby, the narrator, Nick, is describing an interesting scene he came upon. He thought for a minute that he would call out to Gatsby but quickly decided not to when he saw Gatsby’s concentration on the moment. It was clear he wanted to be alone. He is pining over his lost love and a time in the past he can’t get back. The green light, which represents the past he can’t go back to, is glowing at the end of Daisy’s dock.
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… . And one fine morning —— So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
These are the final lines of The Great Gatsby, returning once more to the image of the green light. It sits at the end of Daisy’s dock, separated by the water. Nick’s narration suggests that the quest to retrieve Gatsby’s ideal life is impossible. Forever, “we beat on” against a current that’s never going to let up. He presents the future as an illusion, one that “we” can never reach as we’re pushed towards the past.
But he fell gradually in love and began to speculate wildly on marriage. Though this design flowed through his brain even to his lips, still he knew afterward that the desire had not been deeply rooted. Once he dreamt that it had come true and woke up in a cold panic, for in his dream she had been a silly, flaxen Clara, with the gold gone out of her hair and platitudes falling insipidly from her changeling tongue.
These lines come from This Side of Paradise. Amory is thinking about marrying Clara, his distant cousin. Clara isn’t thinking about marriage like he is, though, having suffered the loss of her husband recently. His pursuit of her feels doomed from the beginning.
The kiss originated when the first male reptile licked the first female reptile, implying in a subtle, complimentary way that she was as succulent as the small reptile he had for dinner the night before.
This unusual quote comes from The Notebooks of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Here, the writer is using interesting images and a metaphor to describe kissing and relationships. He’s relating dinner and consumption to an appreciation for women and beauty.
Life and Suffering
I’m restless. My whole generation is restless. I’m sick of a system where the richest man gets the most beautiful girl if he wants her, where the artist without an income has to sell his talents to a button manufacturer.
This passage is also found in This Side of Paradise. In it, Amory is considering the things that life does and doesn’t have to offer. He wants to be loved and appreciated for who he is, and he wants someone beautiful at his side. But, he doesn’t want to work or play any games to get those things. It’s annoying to him that men who work for big companies and have a lot of money automatically get women. This isn’t what he wants to have to do.
One writes of scars healed, a loose parallel to the pathology of the skin, but there is no such thing in the life of an individual. There are open wounds, shrunk sometimes to the size of a pin-prick but wounds still. The marks of suffering are more comparable to the loss of a finger, or of the sight of an eye. We may not miss them, either, for one minute in a year, but if we should there is nothing to be done about it.
This beautiful passage comes from Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night. The lines are less than hopeful, suggesting that damage, emotional and mental, is never truly healed. Fitzgerald uses the metaphor of an open wound as a way of contrasting against the “marks of suffering.” Real suffering is more like losing a piece of one’s body, like an eye or finger. There’s no way to get it back when one misses it.
At any rate, let us love for a while, for a year or so, you and me. That’s a form of divine drunkenness that we can all try.
This shorter quote comes from “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz,” one of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most popular short stories. The causal approach to love is not uncommon in his works. The characters are drawn to one another through the way they touch on what should be complex subjects with frivolity.